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Is there any justification for using “is” at the end of an English sentence, or is there a rule that forbids this?

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There's no rule that forbids it and there's no reason not to use "is" at the end of a sentence if it works, e.g., "I don't know who's crazier, you or your uncle Bob, but I think that your uncle Bob is". –  user21497 Nov 9 '12 at 7:45
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What made you think so? Any background info you can give why you had a question? There's at least one related question on ELU I feel. Just check out. –  Kris Nov 9 '12 at 7:51
    
There is! (not) –  McGarnagle Nov 9 '12 at 8:01
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Myself, I don't see what the problem is. –  Brian Hooper Nov 9 '12 at 8:26
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"It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is." (Bill Clinton) –  J.R. Nov 9 '12 at 9:37
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closed as not a real question by Carlo_R., tchrist, MετάEd, Mr. Shiny and New 安宇, JSBձոգչ Nov 9 '12 at 18:56

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5 Answers

The British National Corpus (BNC) has 4258 cites for sentences ending in "is", and the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) has 32950.

        SPOKEN  FICTION  MAGAZINE  NEWSPAPER  ACADEMIC

BNC       808     1600      302       303        315  
COCA    13627     8607     4806      4119       1791           

In other words: no, there is no such rule.

Here are a few sample sentences illustrating only some of the many possible constructions:

  • That's just how it is.

  • Go where the love is.

  • I don't know who David Pollock is.

  • I'm not affected. I don't know if anybody else is.

  • ... then we can reduce the prison population by a third or a quarter or a half or whatever the target is.

  • Treat it like the delicate body part it is.

  • That's not unusual but getting up three or four times is.

  • You can say it's a political gift for us, and it is.

  • The farther right a category appears, the more valuable it is.

  • And then I looked up. Sheer delight. Heaven on Earth. Southern heaven, that is.

As you can see, most of these you can't even reword in an unawkward way, if at all.

However, what you can do to many of these constructions is use them with any other verb.

  • That's just how it smells.
  • Go where the love resides.
  • I wonder how much David Pollock weighs.
  • I don't feel affected. I don't know if anybody else does.
  • You can say it's a political gift for us, and it shows.
  • The farther right a category is, the more valuable it appears.
  • The more you read, the wiser you become.
  • Sheer delight. Heaven on Earth. Southern heaven, to wit.
  • Etc.

In other words, it is perfectly normal for an English sentence to end in a verb, so you'd need to make a rather strong case why to be should be any different.

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Or, in other words, no such rule there is. :^) –  J.R. Nov 9 '12 at 15:10
    
Interesting that there are so many more instances in the American corpus. Could this be because there are more items in the corpus, or could it be that there's some convention in British English that leans against "is" at the end of a sentence? –  JAM Nov 9 '12 at 16:44
    
@JAM: it could be a mix. The 32950:4258 we have here is a factor of 7.7. If we search for is alone, we get 3357998:978459, so a factor of 3.4. That would indicate a preference of roughly 2:1 in AmE vs. BrE. The corpus size is 400+ mn (COCA) vs. 100 mn (BNC), so all things being equal, one would expect to see a factor of 4, in both cases. A search for the indeed gets us a factor of 4.2. However, a search for beer gets us a 4.6, and if we search for I, it's 5.3. So the 7.7 is not too far from standard deviation. (For gray, the factor is 35; for color, it's 342.) –  RegDwigнt Nov 9 '12 at 17:06
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We have a popular expression here in the US, for what it's worth:

It is what it is.

I can't imagine that expression being improved by imposing a rule that would require another word to end it.

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That’s something of an unpopular expression, in that it garners much hate. –  tchrist Nov 9 '12 at 14:23
    
@tchrist, I used to hate it too, but have found a certain context in which it actually provides a degree of comfort in its simplistic way of saying, while we would like (X) to be different/better, the reality is that right here, right now, it is what it is. –  Kristina Lopez Nov 9 '12 at 14:38
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There's no problem at all in a sentence of that form. It's not a particularly common form but valid all the same. The sentence is valid as it is. Breaks up the monotony of longer sentences because sentences ending in 'is' are typically short and snappy. Not that they have to be.

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No, there's no such rule. Just like there's nothing particularly wrong with ending a sentence with a preposition, or splitting an infinitive.

Note that most "rules" you may have heard in grade school actually aren't. I've heard tales of a study of supposed English spelling and grammar rules that found that the majority of them had more exceptions than non-exceptions.

The supposed i-before-e spelling "rule" with a gazillion competing exceptions is a personal hobby horse. I think most English speakers just memorize ie words, then walk around telling people there's a simple rule they are applying, when in fact there isn't.

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So you know: For downvotes with no explanation, I chose to assume you don't like my spelling. :-) –  T.E.D. Jan 8 '13 at 14:33
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I think it comes down to being seen as a lazy style of writing. For example, in the comments above, you could argue that they are incomplete, and should be:

Myself, I don't see what the problem is with using "is" to finish a sentence.

and

I don't know who's crazier, you or your uncle Bob, but I think that your uncle Bob is the craziest.

Ending with 'is' makes it feel like there's more to come and you didn't bother completing the sentence. So it's not forbidden, but you could certainly restructure the sentence to be more satisfying grammatically.

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"Craziest" doesn't work with uncle Bob here because it's a superlative and the sentence is merely a comparative: you and your uncle Bob. Calling uncle Bob "the craziest" changes the meaning of the sentence. To be semantically and syntactically complementary, it'd hafta be "I don't know who's crazier, you or your uncle Bob, but I think that your uncle Bob is crazier". However, I doubt that many non-anal-retentive native speakers would ever say such a thing. –  user21497 Nov 9 '12 at 8:36
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Elision isn't laziness; it's economical. It helps keep conversations from being boring. –  user21497 Nov 9 '12 at 8:40
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You say using is at the end of sentence is lazy and not satisfying gramatically; I say the opposite is being redundant and repeating the priorly occurring expression over and again needlessly while not adding any value, and being repetitive. –  SF. Nov 9 '12 at 8:46
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Indeed, you could argue that those sentences are incomplete – but I think you'd lose that argument. (By the way, I suppose you could change "Do you know where your crazy uncle Bob is?" to "Do you know where your crazy uncle Bob is at?" but then you'd set off a different group of pedants.) –  J.R. Nov 9 '12 at 10:21
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Of course you could argue that any sentence can be rewritten any way you like to support the wildest theory you have. But I am giving my -1 for a different reason: the last sentence in which you equate style to grammar, just like that. –  RegDwigнt Nov 9 '12 at 11:52
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